Abbott Tryphon writes compellingly of the vow made at his monastery to visit the outside world only with clear intention to share their love of Christ by wearing it in an outward smile. I treasure this thought.
I remember as a young man working the phones on a municipal bond desk, it was my job as a middle man to call on behalf the brokers up to the bond dealers as a “coordinator” and find “the terms”, prices or whatever. To my good fortune, the woman on the other end of the phone, Brenda, had the most musical voice that chimed and smiled through the wire. One day, I told her how much I enjoyed hearing her voice, her greeting, and how much it meant to me… and made my day. For no matter how hot and bothered the folks were at my end, her voice was a moment’s relief… and how grateful for that I was then and remain to this day. Those were dreary days, but the smile in her voice… thirty plus years later, remains a bright spot I never tire of sharing with others. And I still remember her and those moments as a treasure.
There are so many points in our liturgy that give great joy. Sometimes, I think we need to be unafraid to let that show on our faces, to let the children who look on us for reassurance know that we treasure these moments of worship in our lives, that they give us great joy, that honoring all our loved ones as we do, our families and friends both here and departed, the saints, our beloved Theotokos whose nativity we celebrate this day, together with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit… and how grateful we are for their witness, their love, and the honor of sharing in their lives and love – if this doesn’t bring music to our hearts and a smile to our faces, surely we’re missing the sound of the choirs in heaven! Let our joy be full, and our lives we share more and more abundant.
Mother Theresa said that a smile is a gift of joy we can bring to others, it’s a gift that Christ would have offered and might now offer through us – if we are unafraid to let it shine. It takes some courage though. So many of us find we’re expected to maintain a certain seriousness, a certain “look” as though we don’t take this lightly. But of course we don’t… not ourselves. Yet what is it we come to see if not the eternal joy of heaven? Fairly, few understand the sweetness we find in our sufferings, our failures, and the pain these bring us for what we have done… but without these, how else would we have come to know the grace of repentance, forgiveness and renewal? Can we not smile at our absurdity? The foolishness of treasuring our tears, of loving a broken heart, of worshipping a broken God who alone loves a broken man so completely we can’t even comprehend much less describe… can this not at least in some measure yield a smile?
We shouldn’t hesitate to break the prayer for ourselves to lift our gaze, to brighten our countenance a moment, and smile first from our eyes but then through every pore, so that if anyone looks our way, surely they’ll think either we’re fools, or we’re having such joy in the presence of God that perhaps they, too, might reflect this light back to us… and so a thousand faces might shine. A smile is a prayer for another offered without words, without thought, and all in an instant – and understood by all. If it must, perhaps we might at least let it mask our fears and hurts… and choose instead to spare our brothers and sisters, that we might bear rather than burden one another.